- HE Mr. Fidelis Manuel Leite Magalhaes, Minister of Legislative Reform and Parliamentarian Affairs
- HE Mr. Demetrio de Amaral de Carvalho, Secretary of State for Environment
- Dear Ambassadors, Development Partners, CSOs, UN Staff etc.
Good day everyone and welcome to the UN DAY celebration, and on this UN birthday I would like to particularly welcome our UN staff who are honored by today’s event, as well as our partners in Government and all the NGOs, donors and stakeholders who join us as together we strive to improve the lives of people of Timor Leste.
We are very happy to have you here and share this special day with all of you.
UN DAY is special…
The UN was born out of a dream which emerged from a nightmare.
The UN was officially launched on this day in 1945 with the signing - by nearly all nations of the world - of the first UN Charter. So UN Day is a celebration of our ability to works towards something better together.
The United Nations has been involved in the lives of all people in Timor Leste since 1960 when it added the country to its list of non-self governing Territories, putting on the global political agenda the right of the people of this region to self determination.
The UN has now moved from a long period as a peace-keeper to a development partner in Timor Leste, and we at the United Nations gladly take on the challenge set for us by the global community - 193 member countries of the United Nations - to help the government and people of Timor-Leste create a better place for all to live.
The support of the world community which is seen here with all partners: CSOs, NGOs; academia; families and communities, embassies and the diplomatic community; and businesses who are all working together to assist the government and the people of Timor-Leste to achieve their aspirations.
Today we also mark another anniversary important to developing nations – this year, in December, we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Declaration was a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, it was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations.
The Universal Declaration of Human rights set out for the first time, the 30 fundamental human rights to be universally protected. It has been translated into more than 500 languages. It starts with the following sentence:
‘’…the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.’’
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights puts people and people’s needs at the center of self determination and development.
Today we will be able to watch a short video about the 70th declaration of human rights which will explain why it was so significant back then and why it is even more today. I encourage you also to talk about human rights with our Human Rights adviser, Anjet Lanting and her team about how we embed human rights as a cross cutting issue that under-pins all our work.
One of the wonderful things about the United Nations is the way it can put important issues on the global agenda – It did it with East Timor way back in 1960, and it did it again when The UN created a special rapporteur on the Human Right to safe drinking water and sanitation. That rapporteur, Mr Leo Heller said yesterday in his latest report on water to the UN General Assembly, that Governments at all levels must understand they are accountable to their citizens for the provision of water, and that citizens should have access to appropriate mechanisms to demand safe and clean drinking water.
Water was one of the principal considerations of the Rio Earth Summit in 2012, which resulted in a focused political document containing clear and practical measures for implementing sustainable development.
World leaders met again at the UN General Assembly in 2015, and committed themselves by 2030 to end poverty and hunger everywhere; to combat inequalities within and among countries; to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies; to protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources.
They said: “We are resolved to free the human race from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet.’’
In a recent meeting in NY, UN representatives talked about the need to accelerate progress on the 2030 agenda.
The role of the UN in Timor-Leste is to help its government achieve the objectives of the SDG agenda. The Government of Timor Leste was one of the first in the world to sign up to achieving the goals of the SDGs, but we are in danger of slipping behind on water, and we all need to work better together to accelerate our work to provide safe water for all people in the country.
All UN agencies are focused on reaching the SDGs, finding new and innovative ways of over-coming barriers, helping our partners reach their goals, seeking world’s best practice in projects in Timor-Leste.
Ultimately UN Day reminds us that we are here to save and improve lives, and we’ll use whatever partnership or resources we can muster to help the people of Timor-Leste achieve their goals.
The achievement of the SGDs is the fundamental basis behind the United Nations reforms which will start to be implemented from January 2019.
All UN agencies and staff are working together to achieve these reforms, to work better with the government and our stakeholders.
And one of the areas that we are, and we will continue to work together with the Timor-Leste government and other humanitarian partners is the provision of Safe WATER.
Water is central to many of the SDGs: 1. Health 2. Education 3. Gender Equality 4. Prosperity and peace 5. Humanitarian work and supporting people to mitigate the impacts of disasters and climate change.
Today here at UN House our United Nations teams have provided you with a chance to see various ways in which water plays a critical role in people’s lives and how The UN and our partners and NGOs are working together, determined to make a difference in the lives of people by providing access to water, and to build awareness in the Dili and rural communities about the need for safe, plentiful water.
Globally there are still more than 600 million people who do not have access to improve water supply. While water is the most basic need for every human being, in Asia alone, more than 260 million do not have access to safe drinking water.
In Timor Leste we know nearly half of all families in rural areas access water from unsafe sources, and 8 in 10 rural families walk more than 30 minutes to access water. And the burden of fetching and carrying water falls unfortunately on girls and women, who are sometimes therefore denied the opportunities to use all their skills and talents.
More than half of the rural population do not have access to improved sanitation.
Approximately half of schools (46%) in Timor-Leste don’t have access to water, and just 35 per cent have toilets.
We know this is an important matter for the Timor Leste Government which is considering its budget this week and we urge you to remember your conviction during the recent election to make water provision a high priority.
The Maubisse Declaration by line ministries to rural women’s empowerment shows existing government commitments to gender concerns in water and sanitation. It tasks the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Communications with continuing support for the participation of women in water management committees and guaranteeing that 85% of rural aldeias have access to functioning water-supply systems by 2017. A new Maubisse Declaration was just launched during 2018 International Rural Women’s Day and involves 15 line ministries.
The WHO and UNESCO along with many other valuable contributors last year mapped out a water plan for Timor-Leste.
I urge the government not to give up on these commitments.
In a year in which we are told that El Nino may reduce the length of the wet season and bring less rain than normal, the need to conserve water is more important than ever.
The UN is moving from single use plastic bottles at meetings and seminars and in out offices, to using the big water bottles. These can be purchased from Timor-Leste businesses, creating employment and job skills. You’ll hear more about this from a group of young entrepreneurs shortly and I would commend to all of you to follow suit by reducing the use of single use plastic bottles.
Importance of Partnerships
We all need to do better in protecting water sources and better use of water resources. We can only do this together.
The principal agent of change is the Government of Timor-Leste. The UN is working with you, your public service and other service providers to understand the complex problem in providing safe water for all in sustainable ways.
The UN in Timor-Leste is listening to the government as well as the private sector, to our donors and partners. On this the 73rd UN Day on behalf of the whole UN team, here in Timor-Leste and globally, I recommit to the people of Timor Leste our determination to get the job done.